App State alumnus creates High Country business and culture app


Zoe Zink, A&C Reporter

When a former App State student visited an opening at the Nth Degree Gallery and Studios in Boone, he considered how he ended up there in the first place. He was invited by a friend, which sparked a curiosity about more accessible ways to learn about local events.

Davis Parker, a former App State student, recognized the need for a “hub” aimed toward local events, businesses and culture in the High Country, which formed the basis for the app, Draba. Parker borrowed the name Draba after the Draba flower which blooms in difficult environments. This serves as a metaphor for the “blooming” of new and local businesses. 

From this, Parker began his journey to creating Draba. The app targets community members, tourists and businesses.  

“It’s like if Instagram and Yelp had a baby,” Draba’s content developer Zachary Matheson said. 

On the app, which is expected to launch in the first few weeks of February, content creators and businesses can submit content to its localized feed. Then, patrons can vote for businesses and content they would recommend to other community members. After the votes are tallied automatically by the app, Draba showcases the winners. 

Each business will have links to its social media sites and contact information on the app as well. 

Draba has been in the works since 2012 and has undergone plenty of changes, as well as additions to its team. 

Parker relocated to California in 2019 to participate in the “Tech Futures Group,” which helps strategize deployment for start-ups. He collaborated with Maddie Maurer, Draba’s marketing coordinator. 

“I had a lot of time to commit to something … Davis had just coincidentally moved to California so I was acting as his foot-soldier here in Boone,” Maurer said. 

One of the original ideas for Draba, then known as “Tiger Vine,” was introduced to the Clemson University community in 2015 by Parker. On Tiger Vine, users could use tiger paws as votes to rank university-based events like blood drives and Greek life. The success of Tiger Vine aided in the inspiration for what is now known as Draba. 

The Draba team used this momentum to enter contests, attend forums and pitch the idea to communities across the nation. In 2019, the Valley Venture Mentors Accelerator chose Draba to participate in a six-month program, which aided in funding and support.  

Parker describes this program as a “business incubator,” which matched them with an entrepreneurship mentor.

“They helped us flesh out a business model and strategize deployment strategies,” Parker said. “We mainly focused on pitching in front of crowds.”

 Now, Draba is available for seven towns in the High Country as well as its neighboring cities, such as Johnson City, Tennessee and Hickory. The app will be available for both Apple and Android products once it launches and afterward the team hopes to expand beyond North Carolina. 

Draba has been working toward the full roll out since the team released their alpha version in 2019. The beta roll out brought in over 4,000 users and helped refine the current version, which they expect to be even more successful. 

Since the beta release, Parker and his three-person team have been working alongside local businesses to feature them on the app for free. Businesses like CoBo Sushi Bar, Foggy Pine Books, and F.A.R.M Cafe have committed to the app. 

Joseph Miller, owner of CoBo Sushi Bar and Black Cat Burrito, first heard about Draba while Parker worked at Black Cat. 

“He started filling me in on it (Draba) and how it would be different from other apps,” Miller said. “I think it helps the local businesses and community unite…as Boone grows we can share that exposure and if we grow together, everybody wins.” 

Many Boone establishments have secured future cohesive campaigns with the app, such as Draba exclusive products like a Draba-based drink at Tapp Room or Draba-inspired cookies at App Cookie Co. 

The team hopes to benefit the community by working alongside and featuring nonprofits in the area like OASIS and Western Youth Network.

Draba is also backed by the Town of Boone, the Boone Area Chamber of Commerce and the Downtown Boone Development Association. 

 “I can absolutely promise you we will never have ads,” Parker said. 

Parker considers this just one of many ways Draba is unique compared to its competitors. 

Draba’s goal is to benefit both sides of the business/patron relationship: the businesses receive free advertisement, while the patrons have easier access to popular content. 

Parker explained that one of the app’s main goals is to help support the many local businesses the High Country has to offer throughout the year. 

“Over the summer when the students leave, these businesses experience a dip,” he said. “Hopefully we can provide a surge from an economic standpoint.”